Oh Ranger Column
Olympic National Park
Glacier capped mountains, wild Pacific coast and magnificent stands of old-growth forests, including temperate rain forests -- at Olympic National Park, you can find all three. About 95% of the park is designated wilderness, which further protects these diverse and spectacular ecosystems. Olympic is also known for its biological diversity. Isolated for eons by glacial ice, and later the waters of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Olympic Peninsula has developed its own distinct array of plants and animals. Eight kinds of plants and 15 kinds of animals are found on the peninsula but no where else on Earth. Outdoor recreation is enjoyed in a variety of ways at Olympic National Park. No matter what the season, there are always a number of ways and opportunities to explore Olympic National Park. Whether it's hiking for miles through the high-country, enjoying a picnic, cross-country skiing at Hurricane Ridge, or strolling on a beach or nature trail, Olympic is always a gateway to enjoyable outdoor experiences.
With the ocean and so many lakes and rivers, the Olympic Peninsula is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, sailing, white-water rafting, power-boating and waterskiing. Boat rentals are available at Lake Crescent and from Lake Quinault Lodge. Ramps are maintained at Lake Crescent and Ozette Lake. Whitewater rafting is available in early summer on the Quinault, Queets, Elwha and Hoh rivers; check nearby communities for outfitters.
Over 250 species of birds use the extensive and diverse habitats of Olympic National Park and the adjoining coastal waters. In the mountain meadows, you may see blue grouse, woodpeckers, gray jays, and many more. Along the coast, bald eagles, rhinoceros auklets, western gulls and a number of other coastal birds can be spotted feeding or nesting in offshore trees.
Some of the particularly prevalent birds include the American crow, common raven, varied thrush, winter wren, Steller's jay, gray jay, ruffed grouse, blue grouse, belted kingfisher, and a variety of warblers, woodpeckers, kinglets and sparrows.
Bicycling is allowed on park roads, but use caution--many roads are narrow and winding with limited visibility. Biking is prohibited in the backcountry and on trails, except on Spruce Railroad Trail along the north shore of Lake Crescent. Bike rentals are available in some gateway communities. Before your trip, call (360) 565-3130 for road conditions.
All park destinations can be reached by traveling U.S. Highway 101, which circumnavigates the Olympic Peninsula. Start your visit at a visitor center and get the most current park information. Ranger program times, opening and closing schedules, tides, weather, road conditions and many other factors can influence your visit.
Olympic's 16 campgrounds offer 886 campsites. Reservations are accepted at Kalaloch Campground only. All other campgrounds and unreserved sites at Kalaloch Campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis. To reserve a campsite up to five months in advance beginning the fifth day of every month, call the National Park Reservation Service at (877) 444-6777 or visit recreation.gov. Concession-operated RV parks are located within the park at the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and Log Cabin Resort on Lake Crescent. You must obtain a wilderness permit to camp in the backcountry and outside designated campgrounds. Some backcountry areas require advance reservations; call (360) 565-3100 for more information. Permits are available at the Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles, some visitor centers and ranger stations. Bear canisters are recommended in the backcountry and required in some areas. Contact the WIC for more information.
Popular climbing peaks at Olympic National Park include Mt. Olympus, Mt. Deception and Mt. Constance. Olympic's rock formations are generally shales, sandstone, soft basalts and pillow lava. While offering excellent remote alpine climbing opportunities, the rock is often fragmented, chossy, and loose. Unlike the solid granite in the Cascades and other climbing destinations, Olympic rock holds few cracks for protecting with cams, nuts and hexes. A sling girth-hitched around a rock horn or small tree is frequently the only way to protect a fall. Only a helmet can protect a skull and face from the showers of rock that come with every Olympic climb.
Information on current conditions may be available from the Wilderness Information Center (WIC), nearby ranger stations, and outdoor outfitters on the Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound. Remember that all information is going to be limited to past reports from the field, and conditions may be very different during your trip. Watch the weather, and watch your step.
With over 3,000 miles of rivers and streams, hundreds of lakes and 73 miles of Pacific Coast, Olympic National Park has plenty of habitat for fish. Fishing licenses are not necessary in the park, but Washington State fishing regulations are enforced. Get a copy of park fishing regulations at the Olympic National Park Visitor Center, ranger stations or the park website. Washington State punch cards for salmon and steelhead trout are required. You can obtain cards from sports stores and tackle shops in local communities and along U.S. 101. Anglers must punch the card and fill out other information immediately after catching a salmon or steelhead trout. For ocean fishing from shore, a Personal Use Food Fish license is required.
Day hikes of varying length and difficulty are found throughout the park. Some are universally accessible while others are more challenging. Remember to be prepared for changeable weather, carry food, water, rain gear and extra layers of clothing, and stay on trails to avoid injury to yourself and the park's vegetation. Pack out all trash, including food waste.
There are 365 miles of trails in Olympic National Park maintained for stock use. Check the current condition of the trail before beginning your trip. Call the Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles for current trail reports.
There are picnic areas located throughout the park.
Olympic National Park protects over 73 miles of the some of the most primitive natural coastline in the 48 contiguous United States. The views of ocean, cliffs, headlands, islands and seastacks, coupled with the dramatic changing sea, provide a unique wilderness experience. Most of the coast can only be accessed by foot. Rialto Beach and Kalaloch beaches are accessible by road.
Olympic National Park and its surroundings are home to a wide variety of wildlife. Just offshore, whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals, and sea otters feed in the Pacific Ocean. Invertebrates of countless shapes, sizes, colors and textures inhabit the tide pools.
On land, some species, like raccoons, beaver and mink, live mostly in the lowlands. But others, like deer, elk, cougars and bears, range from valleys to mountain meadows. Park waters are home to some of the healthiest runs of Pacific salmon outside of Alaska. Over 300 species of birds live in the area at least part of the year, from tiny penguin-like rhinoceros auklets offshore to golden eagles soaring over the peaks.
Hurricane Ridge is the focal point for snow and winter recreation, with snowshoeing and cross-country and downhill skiing. Weather permitting, the Hurricane Ridge Road opens Friday through Sunday during the winter season, but storms or avalanche hazards can lead to road closures at any time.
Olympic National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, although some roads, campgrounds and other visitor facilities close in winter. Emergency situations including flooding, blowdowns or wildland fire may also close areas temporarily.
Like everything else about Olympic, the weather is extremely variable, from season to season and place to place. Visitors should come prepared for a wide range of conditions. Rain gear and layered clothing are essential. Overall, the Olympic Peninsula has a moderate marine climate with pleasant summers and mild, wet winters. Summers tend to be fair and warm, with high temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees F. July, August and September are the driest months, with heavier precipitation during the rest of the year. While winters are mild at lower elevation, with temperatures in the 30s and 40s, snowfall can be heavy in the mountains, with accumulations of up to 10 feet common.
Discover Your Northwest
Discover Your Northwest promotes the discovery of Northwest public lands, enriches the experience of visitors, and builds community stewardship of these special places today and for generations to come. One way they accomplish this mission is by providing sales of books and other educational materials online and at park visitor centers and ranger stations. Proceeds support education programs, exhibits and publications in Olympic National Park.
ARAMARK Parks and Destinations
ARAMARK Parks and Destinations manages comfortable, rustic lodges in Olympic National Park & Forest, immersed in the heart of four distinctive settings - from the pure mineral springs at Sol Duc to the breathtaking coastal vistas of Kalaloch.
On Lake Crescent's south shore, about 25 miles west of Port Angeles is Lake Crescent Lodge. The lodge has cabins, motel rooms and rooms in the historic lodge building, along with a dining room, lounge and coffee bar, gift shop and boat rentals.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers cabins, hot spring pools, a dining room, poolside deli and a grocery store. An RV park with hookups is also available. The resort is located 40 miles west of Port Angeles.
On the park's Pacific Coast, the Kalaloch Lodge has cabins, motel and lodge rooms, along with a dining room and grocery store. This lodge is about 90 miles southwest of Port Angeles, on U.S. 101.
Lake Crescent Lodge is located on a 10-acre natural lake at an elevation of 600 feet in a pristine area that provides visitors with an extraordinary place for recreation and relaxation.
All park destinations can be reached by U.S. Highway 101, which circumnavigates the Olympic Peninsula. From the greater Seattle area and I-5 corridor, you can reach U.S. 101 by several different routes.
Cross Puget Sound on one of the Washington State Ferry System's car and passenger ferries.
Drive south to Tacoma and cross Puget Sound at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Drive south to Olympia and access U.S. 101 there.
The William R. Fairchild International Airport serves the greater Port Angeles area and is the closest airport to Olympic National Park. Rental cars are also available.
Currently, Kenmore Air flies seven daily round-trip flights between Port Angeles and Seattle's Boeing Field. Kenmore Air is an alliance partner of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, so connections to Port Angeles can be booked from more than 90 cities across North America. Connections involving other airlines can be booked through your travel agency or directly at KenmoreAir.com.
Port Angeles is served daily from downtown Seattle and SeaTac Airport by Olympic Bus Lines. Clallam Transit System provides service within Port Angeles and commuter services to locations around the northern Olympic Peninsula.
Ferry service is available throughout most of the year between Victoria, British Columbia and Port Angeles. The Coho Ferry offers vehicle and passenger service throughout the year, except for a two-week winter maintenance shutdown. Victoria Express operates a summer passenger-only ferry between Port Angeles and Victoria. The Washington State Ferry system serves a number of routes across Puget Sound, but does not provide service in or out of Port Angeles.